TIME

Companies like McDonalds, Apple, and Ford all have something in common: They make and sell physical stuff, be it Big Macs, computers or cars. So if you’re considering investing in one of those companies, the first thing you might look at is how much stuff it’s been selling recently — an easily-determined metric that’s a decent representation of a company’s success.

But social media companies like Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat don’t make their money by selling physical stuff. Instead, they make it by selling space to advertisers.

As with all advertisements, digital ad space is more valuable the more it gets seen. And one of the key metrics advertisers use to determine how much they’re willing to spend on a social media company’s ad space is Monthly Active Users, or MAUs.

MAUs are simple enough: Every time you log on to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on at least once…

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